Coventry refuses to retract Parliamentary comments about ZIFA

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London – Zimbabwe’s Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry is standing by her comments in the country’s Parliament last week after she was served with a writ by suspended members of the Zimbabwean Football Association (ZIFA) calling on her to retract statements made last week and make a public apology within five days.

Coventry, a double Olympic swimming gold medallist and an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, had told told the Parliament in Harare that $2 million (£1.6 million/€1.8 million) had been paid to the Zimbabwe Football Association before the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

She had been explaining why members of ZIFA had been suspended by Zimbabwe’s Sport and Recreation Committee (SRC) over a payment made to them before the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt at which Zimbabwe were eliminated after finishing bottom of their group,

“The Government had given ZIFA about two million dollars that has never been accounted for, not FIFA money, but Zimbabwe money that Parliamentarians should want to know where it is gone,” Coventry is recorded stating in the official Parliamentary record Hansard.

“That was never accounted for.”

Members of the ZIFA board were subsequently suspended by the SRC, a decision which led to FIFA imposing a suspension on the body.

Coventry, widely considered a leading candidate to replace Thomas Bach as IOC President in 2025, also told Parliament that the suspended members had been accused of sexual assaults on four female referees.

“Four female referees have come forward and given their statements to police and they have been investigated,” she said.

“Three of those members were on the Board.

“One of those members has already received a lifetime ban from FIFA from their own investigations that have been done over the last two months.

ZIFA board member for finance Philemon Machana, one of those under suspension, disputed the claims of sexual assault and the amount paid to the Federation before the tournament.

“No such money was ever given to ZIFA during the three years the suspended Board were in office,” lawyers for him said in a statement.

Machana’s representatives insisted the ZIFA had only received approximately $53,000 (£42,500/€48,450)

Bank statements which appeared to show that this amount was paid into the ZIFA account on June 19 in 2019 were produced.

Machana claimed that payments $2,500 (£2,000/€2,284) had been given to each member of the AFCON party, including coaches and support staff.

“SRC confirmed through their forensic auditors on ZIFA affairs that only ZW$85,800 (£42,500/$53,000/€48,450) was paid to ZIFA by Government and that all such was acquitted,” Machana said.

Machana claimed that investigators had been eager to find a “needle in a haystack,”

“We have formally written to the Speaker of Parliament, we believe we are duty bound, we chose as a citizenry to inform,” Machana’s lawyers stated.

“The letter argues that the Minister misinformed, and we asked that he investigates the matter.

“We have written to the Minister asking her to do the honourable thing by retracting her statements for the pain she has caused.

“Failure to do so within five days will result in us serving her for proper legal procedures.”

Coventry, though, is refusing to back down.

“I’ve made my position very clear in Parliament and have nothing further to add,” she told insidethegames today.

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